A's eager to find more success as calendar turns to '14
After busy offseason, plenty of questions linger in quest for an AL West three-peat
OAKLAND -- Though the A's enjoyed yet another successful year, bringing home their second straight division crown, they're more than ready to flip the calendar to 2014.
Yearning to get back to the playoffs and finally advance past the first round, the A's have made an abundance of moves this offseason that they believe can help them do just that.
But nothing's guaranteed, and there are plenty questions to be asked of this team entering the new year:
Can the A's rely on Scott Kazmir?
Kazmir's two-year, $22 million deal was just one of several moves made by general manager Billy Beane in a 10-day span in December, but it will most surely be questioned more than the others leading into the season. The A's typically don't make a habit out of handing out these types of contracts because of limited resources, and this one is the largest they've ever given a starter in franchise history. That it went to a pitcher who was out of the Majors for essentially all of 2011 and '12 because of injuries and mechanical issues speaks to a market that has put starters high in demand. It also speaks to the A's deep desire to replace veteran Bartolo Colon, who signed after Kazmir and got two years and $20 million from the Mets.
Oakland wasn't interested in a multiyear deal with Colon, but was Kazmir the next best option in its price range? Coming off a resurgent 2013 campaign with the Indians, Kazmir will be expected to lead a rotation filled with a bevy of youngsters. The southpaw will be just 30 himself in a matter of weeks, so there's the thought that he just might have some of his best years ahead of him, particularly after a strong second-half showing in 2013 that saw his velocity up and his form reminiscent of his All-Star days.
How will the second-base picture shake out?
Second base is easily Oakland's weakest link, and it remains to be seen just exactly who will get the majority of playing time there this year. Newcomer Nick Punto is probably the guy, but Eric Sogard figures to get his fair share of starts, too, as part of what could turn into another platoon. Alberto Callaspo is also in the mix, but the A's are toying with the idea of trying him at first base as a complement to Brandon Moss as well.
What about catcher?
Outside of second base, this is a position that could use an upgrade. Turning Derek Norris into their everyday guy behind the plate was exactly what the A's envisioned when trading Kurt Suzuki to the Nationals in the middle of the 2012 season. But the acquisition of John Jaso later that year -- a high on-base guy Beane always coveted -- changed those plans, in part because of Norris' continuing growing pains. A platoon formed. Jaso was forced to the disabled list because of a midseason concussion, and he may now be better suited for DH duties, allowing the A's to potentially ease Norris into a more regular role, with Jaso and Stephen Vogt also on hand.
So Jaso is the primary designated hitter?
That's how it could play out, if the A's want to keep Jaso healthy. A concussion ended his season in July last year, and when he got at-bats during the instructional league, he did not get any playing time behind the plate. His on-base skills play well to the DH role, and the A's are in need of a left-handed bat there, anyway, following Seth Smith 's departure to the Padres in the Luke Gregerson trade.
Was the Brett Anderson trade worth it?
Only time will tell if Anderson can give the Rockies more innings than he totaled in Oakland during his oft-injured days with the A's, who received lefty Drew Pomeranz and Class A pitcher Chris Jensen in the trade. The A's are excited about the possibility of Pomeranz replacing Jerry Blevins in the bullpen, but he'll first be given a chance to join the starting rotation and show off the form that made him a first-round pick by the Indians back in 2010.
How will the bullpen look on Opening Day?
Jim Johnson will step in as closer, with Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook in position to resume their setup roles alongside Gregerson. That's already three big arms behind Johnson. Dan Otero will also be in the mix and Jesse Chavez, too. New arrivals Pomeranz and Fernando Abad are among those who could fill out the bullpen, with Pedro Figueroa -- who is out of options -- under consideration, too.
Will Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick bounce back?
The 2013 season exposed some potential flaws in Cespedes' game, as well as a few mild injury risks, but the A's are confident he's in store for a better year and can be the complete hitter they always envisioned. The power will always be there, but Cespedes can be a .300 hitter if he can sacrifice some of that power for contact. His swing was getting long during parts of the season, resulting in fly balls and strikeouts, but the A's saw an improved swing and better timing in the last month and are hoping that carries over to 2014.
As for Reddick, the A's don't see him hitting 30-plus homers again, but they do see him having the ability to be more consistent at the plate with a surgically repaired wrist that truly hindered his 2013 season.